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Stylish and fun-filled family garden in London

By London garden designer Ana Sanchez-Martin. This Highgate family has two very young boys, ages three and five, who despite having a sizeable garden wouldn't play in it.

The parents wanted a garden which had enough interest for the kids and attracted them to play outside, but they wanted to avoid the 'playground' look, i.e. a garden full of play equipment. They wanted the garden to look stylish and grown up too. Another main consideration of their brief was to try and conceal the large block of flats at the bottom of the garden.

Stylish and fun-filled family garden in london

An ugly, visually overpowering conifer tree which, until then, had been a problem, was turned into a positive by creating a treehouse around it. The treehouse features various elements: a climbing wall with bug-shaped climbing holds on one side and peephole cut outs on the other (hidey holes and ball targets), an upper decked platform accessed by ladder rungs fixed to the tree trunk, an area under the platform big enough to play in, a mini telescope and, finally, a rope pulley to bring toys or food up onto the platform. Despite being full to burst with play elements, the treehouse looks from the house as just a stylish screen, as the play elements are concealed from that angle.

Stylish and fun-filled family garden in london

At the end of the garden another play area was created, designed to be next to the new grown up patio. The kids now can sit next to their parents with their friends in their own picnic table-cum-sandpit. Next to this, another concealed play area hidden by a screen, this time painted in blackboard paint, containing a tumble bar and an area for creating a den or a quiet reading corner.

Stylish and fun-filled family garden in london

The parents' entertaining needs were catered for with two terraces to catch the sun at different times of the day: the rear terrace, where the parents wanted to relax on sun loungers, was paved with black limestone. The terrace next to the house, decked using smooth hardwood, is of a more generous size as it needs to accommodate a large dining table and chairs and a BBQ.

Stylish and fun-filled family garden in london

Finally, the planting was given special attention, as the clients wanted an interesting, grown-up selection of plants and a soft, naturalistic palette in cool colours. A combination of tall grasses and herbaceous plants were used, such as Calamagrotis a. 'Karl Foerster', Veronicastrum v. 'Fascination' and Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' in the deepest bed, anchored by evergreen box balls, which echo the circular cut outs of the screens, and plenty of ground cover in the form of the invaluable Geranium 'Jolly Bee' and ever reliable Alchemilla mollis. This planting is echoed in other beds for visual continuity; however there is some special planting for dry shade at the base of existing trees: Epimediums, Euphorbia robbiae, Helleborus orientalis 'Ballards Hybrid'. Finally, ferns of different sizes were used next to the childrens area to create a jungly, playful effect.

By Ana Sanchez-Martin